So why is there so much spam and trolling?
It all began with a spam business model…
The social media graph
“This journey is one per cent done, which means we realized there’s an enormous opportunity to do more in this space.” – Soren Lassen, Manager of the search infrastructure team at Facebook
And the trolls?
How do they earn that amount of attention just from spreading negativity? Why do people read their posts and eagerly await their next move? Are the followers as sick as the trolls they follow?
While I’m not a psychology expert, schadenfreude may explain the inner satisfaction of reading a negative comment that we lacked the courage to make ourselves. Yellow press, gossip magazines, and even a few politicians have succeeded by doing exactly that. If there is a demand, there is also a supply.
And what about the connection between trolls, spam and marketing?
Easy. User generated content (UGC), even when negative, generates attention. Attention generates engagement. Engagement generates social followers … exactly what spammers – and some marketers are looking for. There is clear evidence and plenty of examples of paid trolls: users on a payroll whose only objective is to generate discussion and engagement, usually taking the other side of the general flow of conversation. Even bad press is good press and some trolls are good business.
Business ethics and marketing
We recognise the need of companies to understand a market and their honest objective to improve it to increase shareholders’ value. Marketing experts are paid to research these markets and obtain information to make sound business decisions. The grey area is how far they will go to obtain this data before their competition does?
There are undoubtedly a minority of marketing and social media professionals who bluntly offer this to their employers or customers: “Don’t ask how I will deliver, just be happy that I do”. No need to know, so no business ethics or even legal issues interfere.
But for most of us, as professionals, individuals and consumers, the buck stops there. So, the next time you’re annoyed by a shared post, unwanted message or a disgusting troll, take time to think about who may benefit from their activity. And please, help stop the chain!
By César Struve, moderator at eModeration. This post was originally posted on his blog.Feature image: tburgy Facebook social graph image: rafiqphillips